Amid the nationwide focus on standardized test scores and graduation rates, Democracy Prep's network of charter schools set an explicit goal of preparing students for good citizenship. Are they succeeding? A team from Mathematica Policy Research, led by Brian Gill, set out to measure the impact on voter registration and actual voting in the network that includes middle and high schools teaching about 5,000 students.
The team studied records from Democracy Prep’s admissions lotteries over the past decade, matching them to a national database of registration and voting. The lotteries allowed for a randomized comparison among those offered admissions or enrolling in the middle and high schools and those who weren't selected. The results showed a positive impact on voter registration and voting in the 2016 election, especially for the student enrolled the school. The rate of voter registration among students increased about 16 percentage points and the voting rates by about 12 percentage points.